Before coming to Chewonki, I mostly thought I understood what it would be like. I meticulously read emails and avidly asked questions to those who had come here before me. I was expecting a plethora of things; new friends, academic rigor, like-minded peers, and an outdoor experience I craved living in the city of New York. What I wasn’t expecting was that I, in fact, could never have understood what Chewonki would be like for me and my semester. When I try to describe Chewonki to my friends and family, I stumble through stories about harvesting tomatoes and convoluted anecdotes about rainy days on science field lab.
In returning from my wilderness trip this past week, I have uncovered an abridged answer to this question of what Chewonki is for me–purpose. I profoundly felt this sense of purpose on my canoe trip through the St. Croix river. This winding river gave my trip the perspective of observing Canada on river left, and camping in the U.S. on river right. From the moment we began intentionally packing our wet bags, I felt giddy excitement and anticipation for the adventure that laid ahead for me and my new friends. While on the river, I learned many new paddling and camping skills, and I made so many memories. I will remember going through the first big rapid of my trip, laughing and bonding while getting stuck (and ultimately unstuck) on rocks. I will remember the satisfaction of cutting firewood for our always delicious dinners. I will remember all rafting up our canoes to chat while drifting along the river. I will remember the feelings of awe and admiration I gained for the wildlife and autumnal beauty I witnessed. I will remember canoeing beneath the sunrise and soaring birds on our last morning. I will remember the strength I felt contributing to this micro-community and simultaneously gained self-sufficiency. With each paddle, I could further understand that days’ purpose.
Back at campus, I have found myself now identifying this purpose in many different places. When I woke up this morning I made sure my cabin mates, many of whom sleep through our alarms, were up by morning gather. I properly recycled the trash from my morning chore. I scraped excess food into bins to be used for pig slop and compost. I went to morning meeting, and drank tea with friends outside on the quad. I did this all before 8 am. Through my classes, friends, and cabin, to this campus and its farm, I more deeply understand community and my role in it. I truly feel purpose throughout my day here at Chewonki.
Arielle, The Beacon School, New York City